A lot of money flows back and forth across a poker table. For example, a $20-$40 limit Hold'em game might have an average pot of around $250. With pots this size, you would expect the players who were winning to be making a lot of money. After all, every pot they win will net them more than most people make in a day!
However, poker does not quite work like that. While you may be winning $250 at a time, the short-term luck in poker means that the money will be going back and forth across the table, so even a good player will not win too much more than his fair share. Once you take into account the rake, even the best players are barely turning a profit when compared to the size of the average pot. For example, in limit Hold'em, a good player might make only one big bet per hour.4 It might appear that a winning $20-$40 player is winning hundreds of dollars at a time, when in reality he is probably making only about $40 per hour. Put another way, a good limit player will take several hours on average to eke out a net profit equal to the size of an average pot.
All of this stems from the fact that winning poker players make money from their opponents' mistakes, which are generally small in nature. In poker, any hand can win, and it is rare to be betting when you have the absolute nuts. So even when opponents call bets that they
3 Consequently, this is why top players prefer slower blind structures in tournaments. More luck is involved in tournaments when the blinds increase quickly, because fewer hands will be played before the blinds reach a critical level.
4 Online players tend to measure win rate as big bets per 100 hands. Many online players consider a good win rate in limit cash games to be about two big bets per 100 hands (of course, "good" is a relative term).
shouldn't, they still have a chance to win, especially if they know a little about poker and are not likely to put money into the pot with horrendous odds. These little mistakes add up over time, allowing the better players to win, but they will never win as much as it might seem they should given the average size of the pot.
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